The year was 1976, the United States was celebrating its bicentennial, and the FM radio airwaves were peppered with songs from three performers/bands that are visiting Pittsburgh this month—Peter Frampton, Stevie Wonder, and the band Chicago. If the Sixties are more your cup of tea, Ringo Starr, The Zombies, Arlo Guthrie, and Chubby Checker are all in area concerts this month.
Most of the big acts and major twang of summer has receded, but we do have what promises to be hot shows from Grace Potter, Lucinda Williams, and Collective Soul. On the local front The Park Plan is throwing a EP release party and are joined on the bill by Brazilian Wax, Murder for Girls, and Dumplings. There are many great concerts each month in the ‘Burgh, both big and small, so get out there and support live music.
Oh, and also there’s a former candidate for governor of Texas performing here this month, read on…
Friday, October 2
Not many folk musicians have the bloodlines or the background of Arlo Guthrie. A son of the late Woody Guthrie—who, along with some other folks, practically invented the modern folk genre—Arlo also learned by playing and singing with his dad’s friend Pete Seeger, who was one of the most compelling live performers in any genre. Guthrie The Younger is best known for his beautiful cover of the railroad-train ballad “City of New Orleans” (above), though many hardcore fans prefer the sly rambling style of his original talkin’-blues number “Alice’s Restaurant”. Expect to hear both when Arlo takes the stage at The Palace in Greensburg. And when he swings into his father’s anthem “This Land Is Your Land,” be prepared to sing along. 8 p.m. The Palace Theatre, 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (MV)
Tuesday, October 6
With her bold, soaring vocals delivered in a rich blues-rock framework, Grace Potter has garnered increasing attention on the national rock scene and the chance to open two concerts for The Rolling Stones this past summer on their Zip Code tour. Best known as the lead singer for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, she has ventured out on her own now with the August release of her second solo effort Midnight. “The Lion The Beast The Beat” is a great example of how Potter and the Nocturnals rocked many a house. The band also had a big hit with “Paris (Ooh La La)” in 2010. Potter says of her songs, “You have to either want to dance to it or cry to it. But there’s also a feistiness to these songs that’s completely unapologetic.” Her performance is like that of a joyful whirling dervish, singing, smiling, and playing her guitar. She’s at Stage AE with special guest Rayland Baxter. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Drive, North Shore.
Sunday, October 11
Collective Soul’s name comes from a phrase in Ayn Rand’s breakout 1943 novel, The Fountainhead. Randites looking for lyrics dealing with objectivism and ethical egoism will be disappointed. The similarities to the Russian-born American novelist stop at the band name. But rockers looking for some power chords, plus a hook or two, can check out the quintet at their show at Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall. Collective Soul was born in Stockbridge, Georgia. The MTV smash “Shine” propelled both the band and their 1993 debut album, Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid, to major success on both the alternative and mainstream charts. They have fared well over the past two decades. In 2001, Dolly Parton covered “Shine” and won a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. When “Tremble for My Beloved” appeared on the Twilight soundtrack, the group began to count Millennials and not just Gen-Xers as fans. They’re touring in support of their ninth album, See What You Started by Continuing, released this October. King Washington opens. 8 p.m. 510 E 10th Ave., Munhall. (CM)
Richard “Kinky” Friedman has always been a renaissance man. After serving two years with the Peace Corps in Borneo, Indonesia, the Kinkster returned to his native Texas and became a country and western singer. He released his debut album, Sold American, in 1973, and in 1975 and 1976, he toured with Bob Dylan. His songs combine social commentary with satire and feature titles too outrageous to mention here. When his music career slowed in the 1980s, he turned to writing detective novels. In 2006, he ran for governor of Texas, placing fourth in a six-person race. He counts both President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush as friends. His home, Echo Hill Ranch, doubles as a shelter for abused, aging, and stray animals. Now he’s back to music, with the release of The Loneliest Man I Ever Met, his first proper studio album in nearly 40 years. The album is mostly covers. Willie Nelson joins Friedman on Nelson’s own “Bloody Mary Morning.” Kinky is touring in support of the album, with an appearance at Club Cafe. Brian Molnar opens. 8 p.m. 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. (CM)
Monday, October 12
The Neighbourhood’s stop at Stage AE will be Pittsburgh’s one chance to see the band not only live but also in color. The quintet is committed to pairing its moody music with a monochrome aesthetic, going so far as to refuse to play “The Late Show with David Letterman” until the producers agreed to shoot their performance in black and white. That performance, by the way, is of their breakthrough single, “Sweater Weather.” Despite drawing heavily from rap, the single appeared on many an alternative radio station. It comes from the band’s 2013 debut album, I Love You. Wiped Out!, their sophomore effort, won’t be out until later this month, which will make their Pittsburgh show something of a sneak peek of the new material. Also, don’t let the “u” in their name fool you. They’re not British. Rather, they hail from Newbury Park, California, near Los Angeles. To keep things simple, the band sometimes stylizes their name as simply THE NBHD. Bad Suns and Hunny open. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)
Wednesday, October 14
Fans of the Zombies’ album Odessey & Oracle have waited almost 50 years to hear the songs live. Why so long? When the British psychedelic group released the album in 1968, it sparked virtually no interest, and the band disbanded. The decision proved to be a premature one. A year later, “Time of the Season” was released as a single and became 1969’s surprise hit. Odessey & Oracle developed an underground following, and Rolling Stone now counts it at 100 on their “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list. The Zombies were part of the British Invasion, which included groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Hits included “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No.” After their break-up, singer Colin Blunstone had an acclaimed solo career. Keyboardist and songwriter Rod Argent formed another group, simply named Argent, and played arenas. For the Zombies’ show at Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall, the four original, surviving members will be joined by new members to play not only Odessey & Oracle in its entirety but also cuts from their new album, 2015’s Still Got That Hunger. 8 p.m. 510 E 10th Ave., Munhall. (CM)
Does Al Jarreau have fun when he sings? One might as well ask if the Pope is a hot ticket when he tours. Jarreau’s upcoming concert in the MCG Jazz series is a hot ticket, too, because he doesn’t merely sing a song. He slip-slides inside it, wriggles around in it, takes it on an excursion that can range from deep-sea diving to high-note scat—and just when you think he’s given it everything he’s got, he tops it with the next song. Jarreau grew up in Milwaukee, then moved around the country building a career that has come to include 23 albums, six Grammy Awards, and fans in places from Albuquerque to Amsterdam. His MCG Jazz appearance is sold out but you can try the online waiting list or aftermarket ticket sales. Two shows, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, 1815 Metropolitan St., Manchester. (MV)
Lucinda Williams brings her well-seasoned voice to the comfortable confines of the Byham Theater. Her songs hit the sweet spot between blues, country, folk, and rock. She’ll be singing about her “Joy” (video above) and “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.” Her song “Passionate Kisses” was covered by Mary Chapin Carpenter in a recording that won the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, and was also named song of the year. Williams’ voice has a slightly rough, yet very melodic tone. She is touring in support of her 11th studio album Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone. The release is William’s first on her own Highway 20 Records label. Opening is Buick 6. 8 p.m. Byham Theater, 101 6th St., Cultural District. (RH)
That1Guy is just that—one guy. His real name is Mike Silverman, and his instrument, The Magic Pipe, redefines the concept of the one-man band. Sprinkle in some esoteric lyrics and a churning baritone, and you’ve got one guy who could give Beck a run for his money in originality and sheer weirdness. He tours relentlessly; he is a fixture on the international festival circuit (Electric Forest, Big Day Out, and the Montreal Jazz Festival, to name a few), and at the world’s largest performing-arts festival—The Fringe in Edinburgh—he has won the Tap Water Award for best musical act. His collaborations with Buckethead as The Frankenstein Brothers have certified That1Guy as one of the most freakish men in music today. Freakishly awesome, that is. 8 p.m. Club Cafe, 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. (CM)
Thursday, October 15
Singer/songwriter Rachael Yamagata has a breathy, sometimes-plaintive and sometimes-rocking style that is somewhat reminiscent of Edie Brickell … except Yamagata is younger, is not married to Paul Simon, and brings distinctive touches of her own to the music she makes. Yamagata started out as a belter with the Chicago funk band Bumpus, then spun off onto a silkier tangent as a solo artist. She now tours internationally (September took her through the U.K. and Europe), and a number of her songs have been used in movies and TV shows. Here in Pittsburgh, the intimately progressive atmosphere of Club Cafe is an ideal setting for a performer in the sensitive/strong vein such as Yamagata, and that’s where she will be. With special guests My Name Is You. 8 p.m. 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. (MV)
Friday, October 16
The year was 1976, the bicentennial of the United States, but an Englishman was ruling America’s radio airwaves. Peter Frampton was that man. Formerly of the English group Humble Pie, Frampton embarked on his own in 1971 and recorded four albums before his 1976 release of Frampton Comes Alive! dropped several songs that burned their way up America’s rock charts—especially “Show Me the Way“, “Baby, I Love Your Way,” and “Do You Feel Like We Do.” The album became the top-selling up to that point, and has been certified platinum eight times. Since then, Frampton has had some missteps and dormant periods, but he’s managed to remain relevant by continuing to write, record, and perform great music. It also doesn’t hurt that he appeared as himself on Fox’s “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” Frampton’s most recent release was 2014’s Hummingbird in a Box and he is currently on an all-acoustic tour, which should make his local appearance particularly interesting. 8 p.m. Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead, 510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall. (RH)
Saturday, October 17
The Park Plan—a Pittsburgh group that blends socially conscientious lyrics with a sound reminiscent of surf rock and ’90s indie—is releasing its sophomore EP Junior Achievement on the 17th. The EP debut party will be held at Howlers with support from other talented bands Brazilian Wax, Murder for Girls, and Dumplings. Although a little newer on the scene, The Park Plan has been steadily gaining a larger following since members Adam and Jenn Jannon-Fischer, Joe Tarowsky, and Ian White made their concert stage debut together in November ’14. This is a good opportunity to see some rising Pittsburgh rock talent. 9 p.m. 4509 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. (CM)
Monday, October 19
Classic rock mainstay Chicago has remained vibrant and popular throughout the decades despite lead singer Peter Cetera leaving the band for a solo career in 1985, personnel changes, and a lack of latter-day chart successes. Why has Chicago remained so popular? The answer is in the music. Every musician is highly accomplished and the band’s big wall of sound brings it all together. Best known for its brassy horn section—which gives extra depth to hits like “25 or 6 to 4,” “Saturday in the Park,” “Just You and Me” “Beginnings,” and “If You Leave Me Now“—Chicago had a longer name at its start in 1967. The rockers called themselves Chicago Transit Authority but were forced to change it … by the Chicago Transit Authority. 7:30 p.m. Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Ave., Cultural District. (RH)
There are times when writing about music is really, really hard. One of them is when Stevie Wonder is coming to town and you can only pick a few of his songs to highlight in a preview. “Living for the City” (above) is an era-defining blast from the 1970s that has to be on the short list. Then you’ve got a tough choice between “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” and “I Was Made to Love Her.” It’d be bad luck to leave out “Superstition.” On a sweeter note, there’s “Isn’t She Lovely.” For historical context, you have to go ‘way back to when he was called “Little Stevie Wonder” and put in “Fingertips”—and, and—well, you can see the problem.
Life should be full of such problems. Stevie Wonder was born Stevland Hardaway Judkins in 1950. He got the Wonder moniker in 1961 from a Motown producer who figured there was no better way to describe the 11-year-old prodigy. It’s been wonder after wonder since then, through a record-breaking 25 Grammy Awards plus much more. If you want to talk about generation-spanning appeal, Stevie Wonder has recorded a tribute to Duke Ellington (“Sir Duke”), performed with classical artists, and done hip-hop. And that’s all the Wonder we have room for, except to say his show is at Consol Energy Center. 8 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (MV)
If you like party beats and near-ludicrous lyrics detailing heartache and woe, CHERUB may be the electro-indie duo for you. Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber, who met at Middle Tennessee State University and are now based in Nashville, are the masterminds behind the music. Their single, “Doses and Mimosas,” is half kiss-off, half tribute to excess, and all body-moving. It comes off their second album, 2014’s Year of the Caprese. Fun fact: caprese is an Italian salad made with basil, tomatoes, and freshly sliced mozzarella. Fun observation: CHERUB may be foodies. The album cover of Year of the Caprese sees the duo dressed as chefs, and their extended plays follow a culinary motif, with names like Antipasto EP and Leftovers EP. They whip up a delectable live show, one which sees both dancing and audience sing-a-longs. They’ve been working on new music and, together with their new live band, have been showcasing it all this summer and fall. They play Mr. Smalls. Hippie Sabotage and Shooka open. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)
Sunday, October 25
To baseball historians, Joe Jackson was the great outfielder accused of conspiring to throw the 1919 World Series in the controversial Black Sox scandal, but there’s another Joe Jackson who is active on the music scene today—and he’s a five-tool player. This modern Jackson writes, sings, plays piano and keyboards, and blows a sax. His many genres include rock, pop, jazz, classical (!), and an updated version of big-band swing. Jackson started making music in 1970 at the age of 16 and is still creating new material with the digits flipped (he’s currently 61). Over the years he has moved from his native England to New York to Berlin, released 35 albums, and performed with multitudes of various bands, ad-hoc combos, and collaborating artists. Jackson is touring in support of his new album Fast Forward, and he’ll be here at Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall. 8 p.m. 510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall. (MV)
Ever since the 1980s, when he was in his early 30s, Michael McDonald has had the stern visage and silvery-grey mane of hair that make him look like the professor you don’t mess with. He has long employed a serious tenor-baritone voice to lecture audiences on the fallacies of “What a Fool Believes,” his big 1979 hit as featured vocalist of The Doobie Brothers. Prior to his tenured position with The Doobies, McDonald performed doctorate research as a backup vocalist with Steely Dan. And since leaving The Doobies he has had a distinguished career of more than three decades as an independent scholar, singing solo as well as collaborating with many renowned colleagues. Professor McDonald will present a review of his most significant work from various periods in a plenary session at The Palace Theatre. 7 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg.
Tuesday, October 27
Richard Starkey was born in the Dingle neighborhood of Liverpool, England on July 7, 1940. After growing up as an often sickly child in a poor neighborhood with divorced parents, he once again found himself recovering in a hospital. The hospital encouraged everyone to play in a makeshift band with whatever instruments were available. Young Richard grabbed a soft mallet and started banging on a hospital pan. He found his vocation and would be drumming from then on, even after family and friends gave him other instruments to try. He would become a highly accomplished drummer and joined up with three other Liverpool lads named John, Paul, and George who had a band and were looking for a new drummer. He was by then known as Ringo Starr (he reportedly garnered the nickname because of all the rings he wore. Starr came from his reluctant drum solos which he called starr time).
As we all know the Beatles achieved massive success and Starr had his moments to shine on songs like “Yellow Submarine,” “Octopus’s Garden,” and “With a Little Help From My Friends.” After the break up of the Beatles he went on to solo success with several top ten hits including “It Don’t Come Easy,” “Back Off Boogaloo,” “Photograph,” and “You’re Sixteen.” Starr always seemed to find good drumming gigs including with the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, two George Harrison albums and The Concert for Bangladesh, and additionally The Band’s Last Waltz. Readers of Rolling Stone magazine voted Starr as the fifth-greatest drummer of all time in 2011. He released his latest album earlier this year “Postcards from Paradise.”
Since 1989 Starr has occasionally toured with his own super group of ever-changing musicians, Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band. Members, too numerous to mention, have included his son Zak, Todd Rundgren, Joe Walsh, and Ginger Baker. Not only is Starr a legendary drummer, but also a fun and charismatic personality. He brings his latest iteration of the All-Starr Band to Heinz Hall. 7:30 p.m. 600 Penn Ave., Cultural District. (RH)
Thursday, October 29
“The Twist” turns 55! Well, 56 if you count the original version released by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters in 1959. But it’s Chubby Checker’s cover that people remember (and still dance to). His version went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960 and then again in 1962, the only single ever to reach No. 1 in two different chart runs. In between was 1961’s “Let’s Twist Again,” which won a Grammy for Best Rock & Roll Recording. Although Checker, born Ernest Evans, is remembered most for “The Twist” and its accompanying gyration, he also pioneered other hits (and moves), such as “The Fly.” Despite his accolades and contributions to music, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame still has yet to induct him. Not that it gets Checker down. He continues to record and perform. In 2013, he sang “Changes,” a ballad, on NBC’s “Today.” And he’ll bring his charisma, moves, and voice to the region with a show at The Palace Theatre. One of Pittsburgh’s early national musical success’ The Vogues, and Latshaw Pops Orchestra open. 7:30 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (CM)
Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central and loves great music.
Christopher Maggio and Mike Vargo also love great music and were major contributors to this preview.